That is a lot of Games

As you know (or don’t if you are new here), we like games around here.  We, meaning me, like to shop for games that the family can play.  I do not shop for family video games.  I am not anti-video games, but there are so video games that really are interactive.  In general when the four of us sit down to play a video game we play the game and interaction is reduced to:

  • “Don’t take that health pack I need it.”
  • “Stop running away.”
  • “I’m dead.”
  • “Who has X spell or ability.”

Even when all of us are playing Diablo III the best we can do is talk about what loot to share and who needs to level up.  Not my idea of gaming.  Then again I am an old gamer and gaming used to involve people talking to each other or at each other if the game was particularly contentious. 🙂

Being that since we started having a family game night or weekend communication has gone up, problems are going down, and school skills along with life skills are on the rise I am pretty damn happy.  Our game collection has started becoming respectable again, there have been hits:

  • DC Deck Building Game
  • Pathfinder Adventure Card Game
  • Forbidden Island
  • Pandemic

There have been some okay games:

  • Marvel Legendary
  • Clue
  • Star Trek Deck Building Game

There have been a couple miss games:

  • Thunderstone (not bad per se, but bad when compared against Pathfinder Adventure Card Game)
  • Star Wars LCG

So far and as far as we can tell every weekend will have at least one Pathfinder game.  With the announcement of the next set having pirates our boy is already planning ahead.  Other games vary, but we are looking to expand into more than just card games.  To wit, a box finally arrived with some new games for us to play this and many other weekends. 🙂

Based on the sterling endorsement by belovedahava,

“Well, it’s fun.
It doesn’t get boring because you can play with different cards each time, plus there are expansions. They are a lot of fun too, but not necessary at all.
It is quick to learn.
I think it’s good for the kids to actually have to think through what they are choosing.”

we picked up a copy of Dominion which does look like a lot of fun.  Due to our boy’s interest in playing army and my desire that he learn some history Memoir ’44 was in the box.   Finally, for Barb and I (maybe the kids) we picked up a copy of Firefly the Game.  I know I am looking forward to the table getting cleaned off and setting up for the weekend.


A Summer of Gaming

In between my summer research projet we have been playing a lot of games over the summer, many of which I have written about. I thought now, right before school for the entire house starts would be a good time to do a review session.  What do you think?  That’s what I thought.

The most popular game over the summer by far was DC Deck Building Game by Crypotzoic.  A fast paced, easy to learn, and best of all fun for all ages (5 to 40+ in this household).  Every weekend at least one person suggested the game.  What was nice to see as a parent was that both children could learn how to win and our boy even learned a couple of strategies to win or come very close to winning.

A close second to DC was Magic the Gathering.  Now while our girl couldn’t play she did start watching games and is taking an interest in the images on the cards-always a first step towards wanting to play.  Our boy went from his all spider deck to a vampire-ish deck and has a strong desire to build a third yet to be determined deck.  While his play didn’t improve a lot, it remained consistent and he never got frustrated.

Third place is a toss up between The Star Trek Deck Building Game by Bandai or Marvel Legendary Deck Building Game by Upperdeck.  Based on appearance and lack of frustration having to search the internet for the complete rules I think that Marvel Legendary wins out, but based on ease of set up Star Trek wins.

Star Trek has a quick set-up that with our house rule leads to some fun games.  The scenarios provided are a mixed bag ranging from okay to outright depressing and that applies to all of them equally because of the random nature of each of the scenarios.  The designers of Star Trek could learn a few things about deck building game scenarios from AEG (see below).  We have had a few close games, one blow out, and in general have fun, but for whatever reason the game is not as popular as I thought it would be.

The only reason Marvel is not the number one game in the house for the summer is because of the set-up time which is also one of the game’s biggest strengths.  We have played five games now and none have even been close to the same.  Different villains, different scenarios, and different heroes each time create a new game.  However setting up a game can take some time.  Usually we set-up the decks the night before we plan on playing that way the next day open the box, unfold the board and go.

Finally, while I was away in Ann Arbor (which I still need to write about) I ordered Thunderstone by AEG (Alderac Entertainment Group).  The premise is that a player builds a deck of heroes and support to go into a dungeon to defeat the evil near the end.  Our first game was slow, ponderous, but entertaining.  Since that time I ordered the Advanced Set Towers of Ruin which provide a game board, more varied cards-the new starter set is good, but lacks in fun like Towers of Ruin and does not have the game board which makes the game a lot better-thankfully the starter set and Advanced sets work together without any problems.  More review to come as we explore the game more.

P.S. I ordered the Star Wars LCG (Living Card Game) by Fantasy Flight Games which has yet to get played but for those familiar with card games has elements from the following card games: Magic the Gathering, Legends of the Five Rings, and Vampire the Masquerade.  It certainly looks good, reads like it should be fun, but is complicated.  Will let you know how that goes.

Star Trek Deck Building Borg…and Some Interesting Things (Edited)

“Resistance is futile.”

Those words have never rung truer than our foray against the borg.  Three of us out to stop the borg from taking over the galaxy.  After constructing the borg deck and fixing the starbase deck (see below) each of us picked out a starship with an ability that we thought would allow the three of us to stop the borg.   The borg scenario is a cooperative game where there is one explore phase and all of us share the starbase.

How hard could it be?

Well by turn two my flagship had been blown up and all us had three borg cards.  Borg cards do nothing for you, they cannot be removed the game by any means other than a card effect, and while they are in your hand they have two other effects: making borg cubes bigger and if you should ever have five at one time you are removed from the game.

By turn four another borg cube showed up and due to all of the borg cards in play was able to take it’s attack and destroy two out of the three flagships and that was that for us.  The game started with 20 borg cards and by turn four all were gone, meaning that each player had at least 6 cards and we were only four turns in.

We were pretty bummed and wondering what we had done wrong and how any group could possibly defeat the borg.  So I went onto the forums where…well all of the questions we had and more got answered and I found the complete rule book.  Why do I say complete rule book, because the updated manual is hard to understand and there online in three sticky posts were clarifications that averaged a page of text and one was close to two.  Those 4 to 5 pages of clarified rules NEED to be in rule books not online.  These clarifications did not answer the borg questions, those answers were elsewhere.

Here is what I learned.

1. We have been doing missions wrong.  During a regular game a player gets 1 free explore which means they can do 1 of the following:

a. Flip over the top card of the space deck.

I. Do the flip effects regardless of type of card.

II. If the card is a ship enter into battle where you can either diplomacy or fight (see below)

III. If the card is an event either you succeed at the event or have the fail effect applied.  Discard if failed.

IV. If the card is a mission move the mission to an open mission spot.

b. Instead of flipping over the top card attempt to complete a mission already in play.

2. When encountering a ship from the space deck you can either attempt diplomacy which allows you to capture a ship or you are forced to fight the ship.

a. Apply the flip effect if any.

b. Compare your ship’s Speed to the flipped over ship’s Speed.

c. If you ship’s Speed is equal or faster than the other ship you can:

d. Diplomacy the ship, which means you compare your ship’s Diplomacy to the enemy ship’s Diplomacy:

I. If your Diplomacy is equal or higher you can make the ship your new flagship or move to points area.

II. If Diplomacy is not high enough got to step e.

e. Fight.

I. In order of highest to lowest each ship takes ONE attack at each other.

II. Ship does damage equal to Attack rating this reduces enemy ship’s Defense by same amount, unless ship has Shields which reduces damage. Example: Ship has an Attack of 8.  It does 8 damage to enemy ship with Defense of 9.  That ship takes 8 damage leaving 1 Defense.  If Ship had Shields 2 then damage done would have been 6.

III. If flipped ship’s Defense is reduced to 0 or less you win and put ship in points area.

IV. If flipped ship’s remaining Defense is 1 or more put that ship at bottom of space deck.  Your ship keeps the damage done to it.

4. House Rule: There are two sets and the box says you can combine them, but there are no suggestions how.  It is obvious how to divide the various scenarios apart, what we and other people wanted to know was how to combine the Explore deck and the Starbase deck.  From the developers: “You tell us what you did.”

a. Here is what we did, there are two sets of maneuvers and set-up cards.  We removed one set (count number of cards only put half back-rounded down).  We only put in 2 wormhole cards.  There are no duplicate character cards so all of them went in.  Removing the duplicate set of maneuver and set-up cards drastically shrunk the size of the starbase deck making for a much smoother game.

b. The Explore deck got all of the missions, events, and ships.  No changes.

5. Borg scenario stuff.

a. Borg scenarios are really made for 5 or more players. 3 or more is suggested, but based on the forums rarely works without making some serious tweaks to each players starting ship or starting hand.

b. Borg cubes come in two types: one with that removes all damage done between each player’s attack and one that keeps all damage until end of combat.

c. While players share a starbase, searches, and can plan out their purchases together in combat they are all alone.

I. Players make their attack at their ship’s Speed.  Only if two or more ships have the same Speed can they combine their attack on a cube.

II. A cube’s attack affects one flagship and any leftover damage is applied to the next ship and so on until all of the damage has been allocated.  This can lead to what we experienced which is one cube’s attack eliminating two ships and seriously damaging a third.

III. Players can choose who takes the damage, which is the only group thing they can do during combat.

d. Non-borg ships that are revealed still apply their Flip affects when revealed, but can only Diplomacy can be done on them.

e. No matter what there are no cards or card effects that allow you to peek at, look at, or otherwise interact with the Space deck before the card is flipped over.  These types of cards should be removed before play.  However, the designers don’t say that they only say they did it that way on purpose.

And there you have what we experienced fighting the borg and what we now know about the game.  Not happy that I had to go online to their forums to find the rest of the rulebook, but some of the information will make the game a bit smoother.

A Day of Card Flopping

Taking a break from card flopping to…well tell you about our card flopping so far.

Our day started off with Marvel Legendary Deck Building Game.  The mastermind, Dr. Doom and his scheme a massive jail breakout.  The heroes assembled to stop his nefarious plans, Spiderman, Iron Man, Colossus, Rogue, and Storm.

Match One: The villains run really fast and the heroes are totally unprepared for how fast the villains run across the board.  Game Over in 6 turns.

Match Two: The villains run slower, until a really unfortunate series of draws and then the game is over at the 11 turn mark.

Match Three: Dr. Doom tired of kicking out butts changes schemes (didn’t hurt that the jails were empty) started a hero civil war.  The heroes actually beat Dr. Doom twice, turns out he is very helpful-gave all us extra cards one time and gave one player a second turn in a row-and then one of the heroes couldn’t count and drew the last card of the hero deck which gave the villains the win.

Deflated the players (us) decided to move onto DC Deck Building Game.

Where my boy got his first victory at all.  He has been using Green Lantern and this game went HUGE.  Out of the 9 Super-Villains he had 6 and when the day was over just in Super-Villains he had 36 points which was the sum total of my entire deck.

Elated he wants to take on the borg.  Which brings us up to now.  While they are making dinner I am setting up our third Star Trek Deck Building Game and is us versus the borg.  Wish us luck.

Later tonight after we un-borg ourselves (notice I am not hopeful of our chances) it will be the Sith versus the Rebel Alliance in our first game of Star Wars LCG.

I hope you are having as much fun as we are.

Star Trek Deck Building II

Star Trek Deck Building Game Set-upYesterday, after some fits and starts the family played deck building games for most of the day.  We played Marvel, which I will write about soon enough, more DC, and yes even gave Star Trek Deck Building by Bandai game a second try.  The second time was much much better.  After thinking and talking about our first game there were two issues that we had; pacing being the first and the length of time during which nothing seemed to happen was the other.  The second issue was, to us, directly related to the first issue.

When we set-up the game this time we took a cue from the Marvel and DC deck building games, which have a large amount of low-cost cards ensuring that at least one or two cards can be bought on the first turn of the game.  This meant that we laid out our Starbase area with cards that cost 5 or less.  An interesting thing was that it took a while to do this because many of the cards cost 6 or more. *

Once we got our modified game set-up, we started playing and right off the bat we noticed an immediate change.  The pace of the game picked up and we never had a period of seven or eight turns in a row, like the first game, where nothing could be done by any player.  Just starting with 9 cards that cost 5 or less dramatically made a difference.  With a good opening hand everyone was able to pick up a card from the starbase and if not, set themselves up to pick up on the next turn.  As the game progressed the starbase got filled with expensive cards.  Some got purchased, some got discarded, but no one starred at the cards and grumbled “can’t do anything.”

When the space deck, which is where the missions are, came into play having an earlier start than the last game made a difference.  Early missions didn’t get done any faster, but instead of a mission sitting undone forever or one mission after another getting put into play to replace another, after about the fourth turn every other mission was getting done.

Borg CubeOur second game was a run away, but that was because Barb got a mission card that required her to sit out for two turns, but on that third turn get a huge bonus.  Unfortunately, the mission was mandatory and came at the exact wrong time in the game.  If this mission had shown up early on or during the middle of the game she probably would have been set-up to win.  However at the end of the game those two turns were two turns that I was allowed my pick of the starbase and was racking up points by completing missions without any competition.

So our recommendation is that instead of drawing nine random cards to start your starbase that you make sure that your starbase starts with cards that cost 5 or less.  Cards that cost more are reshuffled back into the starbase draw deck and no other changes are made to the game.  Next time we play we will be trying one of the scenarios.  If my boy has his way…the borg.

* While I doubt the designers will ever read this, something all of us wondered is why the low-cost cards were often much more useful than the high cost cards.  Good example was a 4 cost Ferengi that I got that allowed me to upgrade him with any Ferengi that cost 8 or less.  The high cost Ferengi generally had better stats, but either no ability or an ability that was of limited use.  Another good example ‘Tasha Yar and Worf have the same ability, but Worf cost 2 points more.

Star Trek Deck Building Game

Summer Research Survey:

Star Trek Deck Building GameI know I said I would review-talk about the Star Trek Deck Building Game yesterday, but I was so excited by the Star Wars-Firefly/Serenity campaign idea that I ran with that instead.  I am here now to tell you about our experience with the Star Trek Deck Building Game by Bandai.

We were very excited to play the game especially due to our marathon sessions of watching Star Trek Next Generation.  When we got the game we went through the cards pointing out scenes that we remembered and characters that we liked.  The presentation is great.  Good images on the cards and clean card layout-although I have seen cleaner.  The rulebook looks nice, but…

That was the first problem the rulebook looks great, but is not clear in parts and could be organized better.  I had to go to their site for some rules clarifications on their forum and even then there were some issues.  However these issues were small and did not derail playing the game just made some parts less clear than others.

Setting up a game takes some space as there is a starbase area with 9 cards in a 3 x 3 grid, a deck of starbase cards, a row of generic officers, and on the other end is the exploration deck and mission area.  This does not include a space for each player who could play up to five cards a turn.  This may be an issue for some people, for us it required us to play on the floor instead of the table.

EnterpisePlay is like the DC Deck Building Game: you start out with a small amount of cards in this cards generic officers, maneuvers, and two cards that allow you to do more with the generic officers and starbase.  You use those cards to purchase better officers from the starbase, maneuvers, and cards that allow you to manipulate your deck or draw.  Then you use the cards you played to calculate the strength of your starship before flipping over an explore card and attempting a mission.  I forgot you also start out with a barebones starship and to upgrade you have to find one in the explore deck and defeat it with diplomacy which was more difficult than it seemed it should have been.

This sounds like a lot and it is.  However, in reality a lot of this is a quick comparison of numbers and your are done.  Do you have enough recruitment points?  Yes, purchase something.  No, don’t.  Do you have the required level of whichever stat to complete the mission or defeat the ship you flipped over?  Yes, done.  No, suffer the consequences.

Q Promo CardThe biggest issue for all us was how slow the game moves.  Even with a good opening hand, a lot of the 9 cards are not purchasable.  Each turn you can discard one and put a new one in play, but that did not speed up the deck and saw a lot of mid-late game cards end up in the discard pile. That would be one thing, but when you can’t purchase good cards to complete missions or defeat starships it leads to a lot of nothing getting done.  Flip over mission, nope can’t do it, your turn.  Rinse and repeat.  The ship to ship combat is at the whim of the cards you have played, which meant that Barb’s federation shuttle craft with awesome draw kicked the crap (as in blew up) my Stargazer with generic crew and my boy’s mysterious ship went first every time, but did no damage.

The game is supposed to be played to 400 mission points, but we called it quits at 100 points and 2 hours of play.

As bad as this may read, we did have fun (although not as much with DC Deck Building Game), and do have plans to give it a second try in the hopes that we got a bad Starbase draw.  One last thing and it is a minor quibble, but Bandai released promo cards, the Q-card to the side, for a game that is not collectable.  On one hand I like the idea, but on the other the concept doesn’t seem to make much sense for a non-collectable game that does not have a competitive tournament.